Three Common Challenges Faced by School Librarians and How a Good Library System Can Help
School librarians face a unique set of challenges in their job of managing the school library. Having a reliable school library system in place is one of the best ways to help them overcome these obstacles. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at three common challenges that school librarians face and explore how a good school library system can help them address these issues.
I'm busy and I am not a trained librarian!
A lot of schools do not have the benefit of a full-time trained librarian running a school library. We fully support schools employing trained librarians but the reality is that many schools don’t for various reasons. Instead many school libraries are managed by busy teachers, office staff, parent volunteers, or school governors. This creates challenges like trying to find time in the day when faced with other duties and having to understand things like cataloguing, subject indexing, classification, lending, reports, and accession numbers without training.
To overcome these challenges, firstly make sure you select school library software that is easy to learn for staff who do not have formal library training. The best way to assess this is to try out the school library system before you commit to buying it. Are the screens intuitive? Can you find your way around it without hours of training? Is there an online help centre where you can search for articles giving you step-by-step instructions? Also, look for what support you get with the system. Can you phone or email to get answers to your questions or if something goes wrong?
Secondly, to spread the load, consider delegating tasks like cataloguing or lending to helpers. Helpers could be students, assistants and other volunteers. A good school library system can support you by having flexible licence options for helpers at no extra cost. These features are essential for running a school library efficiently and cost-effectively.
Keeping track of learning resources
Another challenge in running a school library is keeping track of learning resources. When you lend thirty textbooks to a class of students, how do you keep track each copy? How do you know when they are due back and which pupil has which copy?
First of all, you need a list or catalogue of library resources. Some people try to use a spreadsheet or word-processed document to do this but soon find that it’s time-consuming to write accurate details for every single item. To overcome this challenge a good school library system will automate typical tasks involved in managing a school library. Check that there is a cataloguing tool where you type or scan the ISBN on the back of the book and then the software automatically adds the bibliographic details, book cover image and summary to your system.
Secondly, you need a unique number for each physical item in your school library because when you loan items you need to know which numbered copy was lent to each pupil. See our blog article about the pros and cons of using ISBNs versus barcodes to track items. Good school library software will automatically create copies and assign a unique number to every item.
Thirdly, you need a list of pupils or borrowers in the system which again can be a chore to create. School library software that integrates with your school management information system (MIS) can import pupil data from your MIS and keep it up to date in your school library system. This saves a lot of time at the end of the year when pupils leave and at the beginning of the school year when you have new joiners. You can also be reassured that throughout the year your pupil data is accurate and up-to-date.
Now you are all set up to lend your learning resources! Make sure that your school library software that has dedicated check-out and check-in screens which are easy for anyone to use. You can either allow pupils to record loans themselves or class teachers and helpers can record the loans when each class visits the library. Check that the school library system makes this a quick and streamlined process for all.
A school library system can also help when it comes to getting loaned items back. Check that due dates are calculated correctly, loan recall notices can be sent out automatically and that you are alerted to missing items.
Promoting literacy and pupil engagement
Improving literacy and pupil engagement is a school-wide objective that the school librarian can actively support. The challenge of managing a school library is that the librarian must find creative ways to encourage reading and engage pupils with the library’s resources. One way a good library system can help is by offering a variety of reading materials that cater to different interests and reading levels.
By providing a diverse collection of books, magazines, and online resources, the librarian can pique the curiosity of pupils and encourage them to explore different genres and topics. Your school library software should have search and browse features that make it easy for pupils to find appropriate resources suitable for their reading level. This can be achieved by integrating your school library system with a reading scheme like Accelerated Reader and importing data about reading levels and quizzes.
In conclusion, if you don’t have a school library system, you might think you are saving money, but you are wasting staff time on inefficient methods for cataloguing, lending, and other administrative tasks. By implementing a good library system, you can ensure that your school’s library operates smoothly and efficiently, which will ultimately benefit your students. With a robust library system, staff can focus on their core duties of helping students develop reading skills, improve their academic performance, and nurture their love for books and learning.